The Public School System is in the process of furloughing its staff as its allocation from the CNMI government continues to plummet as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Education Commissioner Dr. Alfred Ada, plans are in the works to furlough staff but they are waiting for the best time to do so.
“We are planning. Plans are in the works. Timing is very important. I’m just planning on what are the possible scenarios because there is no money coming in,” he said.
Ada said that he and his staff have explored all possible options and that furloughing teachers and other personnel seems to be the best option.
“The three options I am looking at are to furlough, continue with a payless payday, or layoffs. With layoffs, we need to give them 90-day notice, so I still have to find the money to pay them for those 90 days. For the payless Fridays, they’re not getting paid so their scope of work changes. If you don’t get paid, then you don’t work. [With] furloughing, they still have their jobs,” he said.
Ada said that furloughing staff is the best option and they are just waiting on assurance from the federal government that there will be assistance for those who lose their jobs as a result of COVID-19 under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.
“We are waiting on the federal aid to be approved before we implement furloughs. It’s the best that I can do. With the supplemental, once we have the assurance, we will plan accordingly,” said Ada.
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres signed an agreement last Sunday afternoon with the U.S. Department of Labor to implement the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for CNMI workers who were affected by the economic downturn caused by COVID-19.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which is provided under the recently enacted CARES Act, provides emergency unemployment assistance to workers who do not have unemployment insurance, which is not available in the U.S. territories.
The program will provide eligible workers weekly unemployment checks and jobless benefits for up to nine months.
Last March 27, President Donald J. Trump signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.